Every kid, and adult to be honest, should have a hobby. Being a computer-glued shut-in can be great for the world of work, but stifles your social life! For a lot of parents, the choice is obvious; baseball! This sport is a wonderful way to keep active, learn people skills and make friends. In some cases, it will spark a passion which will follow them for the rest of their lives. The way your kid is introduced to baseball can have a pretty big impact on how they take to it in the future. Like anything, there’s a right way and a wrong way to get your kid into baseball. Here’s a guide to help you out!
If there’s one general rule of thumb I can offer it’s remember to praise your kid for their effort, as well as their results. Obviously, results should be praised too, but you probably won’t have to remember that. When you see your kid pull off a great pitch or a diving catch, you won’t be able to stop yourself shouting “good one!” By all means, give credit where credit is due. However, don’t try to push the message that results are all that matter. Make sure to praise your kid for the effort they’re putting in as well. For example, if they pull off a great catch after a lot of failed or sketchy ones, then tell your kid how great it is to see their practice is paying off. Obviously, some kids take to the sport more naturally than others. There are probably going to be times when hours of practice fail to give your kid any results. Let’s say he or she dashes for first base the instant they hit the ball. They’re called out by a split hair. Your natural reaction might be to tell them what they did wrong immediately, and get across what they need to make it next time. Check yourself for these kind of competitive habits. When you feel like telling them to get their act together, praise them for how hard they’re trying first and choose your words carefully. When you follow this rule, your kid will be more resilient and determined to work at the sport. Focus too much on the results, and they could end up resenting it! When all else fails, use “you will get him next time.”
Now, onto some more practical advice. Make sure you get all the right equipment to give your kid the best start. If your own gear is looking a little worse for wear, then here’s a great excuse to buy yourself a new set! New baseball players, especially young ones, are going to have a little fear of the ball. This starts the first time they get beaned on the knuckle or some other painful place by a hard ball. This can be more of a big deal to some kids than others. If you want to avoid this kind of setback, I recommend starting them off with tennis balls or “level 1 baseballs”. These balls are used in leagues for five and six year olds. However, if your kid is five and a complete novice, then I’d start off with a tennis ball for at least a few weeks. Don’t get stuck on these though. While okay for hitting practice, tennis balls will often bounce right out of a glove. If your kid gets too used to these kind of physics, the transition will be extremely hard. Obviously, some kids will develop their skills faster than others. Keep an eye on their progress and move them onto a hard ball when you think they can duck well enough. However, you should try to avoid any early upsets which might scare your kid away from the sport.
Next, onto their glove. There’s no real “training wheel” stage for this. Gloves are pretty universal, so just take him shopping for a junior-sized one. Getting a glove for a kid can be a little tough, and a waste of money if you don’t find the right one! Make sure that your kid can open and close the pouch easily, without straining their hand. If it’s only a little off, you can try breaking it in with a few different techniques. Certain places sell pre-broken-in gloves, which may be a lot easier to handle for your kid. As I said though, gloves are fairly universal. It’s pretty hard to screw up your choice of glove for your kid.
One of the biggest pitfalls parents have when getting their kids into baseball is the bat. When they’re very young, starting off on a toy bat is fine. As a parent, you know how eager kids are to grow up. Your young child might be extremely eager to move onto a heavier, more professional bat. Make sure you don’t let them do this until they’re definitely ready. Even then, it’s a good idea to get them a lighter bat, ensuring they can bring it around fast enough. However, like with whiffle and tennis balls, you shouldn’t let them stick to this for too long. Your kid might get pretty good with a light bat, but then struggle to start using a heavier one. Obviously, you should get your kid a helmet that fits before they go up against any hard balls. You may also want to get them a batting tee for hitting practice. Don’t try to penny-pinch if you are going to get one of these. Cheaper batting tees will shatter or split after enough use. While other junior equipment can be cheap and decent, a batting tee certainly can’t!
I hope this guide has made it easier to introduce your kid to the wonderful sport of baseball. Although some kids progress faster than others, all of them can gain a lot from starting baseball. Just remember not to get too focused on results, and to encourage a good sense of sportsmanship from an early age. Soon enough, your son or daughter will be raring to get out on the field!